"Improvisation is when I make a mistake" | Musician Gary Bartz | Louisiana Channel



Dive into the tones of the great saxophonist, Gary Bartz (b. 1940), as he talks about his initial fascination for Jazz, the importance of listening, and the problems the music industry is facing today.

It all started for Bartz when he heard Charlie Parker play the saxophone when he was four years old. After five years of asking his parents for a saxophone for Christmas, he finally got one, and he has played it ever since, working with all the greats from Miles Davis, Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, and the list goes on. At 80, Bartz now finds it important to pass on the lessons he learned from a long life in music. One of them is the importance of listening as a musician. “You can’t be a great musician if you don’t know how to listen. That’s the key. The art form of music is listening – that’s how you find your sound”.

First and foremost, Bartz is a composer. He thinks the idea of improvisation is misleading because “you can give a monkey a saxophone, and he will throw it up against the wall – that was an improvisation. But he still can’t play it”. Everything I play, I mean to play, Bartz explains. “It’s not an improvisation until I make a mistake”.

Looking at, for example, the Hip-Hop Scene today, Bartz feels the record labels has corrupted the industry, promoting degrading and nasty music instead of uplifting music, as it used to be. “If that’s what you like that’s one thing, but you don’t need to force that on young people and kids”. So, I try to put out good energies, Bartz says, trying to defeat the bad energies, which the record labels and the Media keep promoting.

Gary Bartz (b. 1940) studied and graduated from the Juilliard School. In the early 1960’s he worked with Charles Mingus’ Jazz Workshop, Max Roach/Abbey Lincoln Group and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. In the mid 1970’s, he joined Miles Davis’ band. Bartz also put out more than 40 solo albums such as the praised records, ‘The Red and Orange Poems’ and ‘Another Earth’. He received a Grammy Award for his performance on McCoy Tyner’s ‘Illuminations’, and in 2015 Bartz was awarded the BNY Mellon Jazz 2015 Living Legacy Award. He is also a professor in Jazz Saxophone at the Oberlin College and Conservatory.

Gary Bartz was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, in August 2021.

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2021
Supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Fond

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